The Second Mrs Thomas
“You don’t like my wife, do you?” He said, dabbing his mouth with a napkin.
“On the contrary,” she replied. “I’m very fond of Edwardian furniture.”
There was a long silence as the waiter wove he way through the tables, listening loudly to the loose tongues of the vacationing aristocracy. Only a fool wasn’t aware that The Times had put their best reporters in hideous tuxedos and unconvincing moustaches up and down the Riviera. They smiled winningly at the intruder as he tripped over his boots and set down a knife on the wrong side of the plate.
“You’re very wicked to speak about her like that.”
“Why? Are you passing quotes to the press too? Really, Tom. I didn’t realise you were so hard up.”
“I mean it,” he said, hushing again as the waiter bumped his way around the salon with a wine glass. “I know you find her a little-” he paused. “light on wit-”
“Nothing about your wife is light, my dear.”
“Lilian!” he hissed, a little too loudly for the forced smile on his face. “I didn’t take you to Nice to hear you mock Dottie.” She pouted, drinking her tea with raised brows. “Besides, I do still care for her. Truly.”
“Stuff and nonsense. You feel sorry for her. She reminds me of a carpetbag one took on a rather nice season to London ten years ago. Rather a pity to let go, but nonetheless, tired.”
“Wives are not hats or purses, my dear. One can’t simply get rid of a woman because she’s grown a little fat or disinteresting.”
Lilian sighed. “My dear boy, it is a noted social fact that Dottie Thomas is to dinner parties about as fascinating or desired as an octogenarian on a strong sleeping draft. To stay with her any further would render you practically verboten to polite society.”
“Dottie prefers to stay at home now, darling. Society knows I attend alone.”
“Attend with me. I insist. I need an excuse to wear emeralds.”
Tom sighed, sitting back in his chair and quickly checking the distance between himself and the reporter. “I don’t want Dottie to feel humiliated, my dear. She can’t know that I’m seeing other women.”
“I won’t tell if you won’t.”
“It’s not you that I’m worried about.” He gestured back to the reporter. “They’d make you out to be some wicked wanton jezebel too, Lilian.”
“Tom, I’m hurt,” she replied. “I am a wicked wanton jezebel.”
There was a long pause. He shrugged, signalling for the bill. “Call it oedipal or madness if you wish, my darling, but know I will always, always be her loving husband. As beautiful and sharp as you are. Forgive me.”
Lilian looked at him with a look a viper might a mouse. The waiter strode over, clumsily presenting the cheque from a wine-stained waistcoat. “My dear fellow,” Lilian said winningly. “Could you fetch Mr Thomas a cigar? And I’d like some coffee, darling. Black, no sugar.”
The waiter stared, glancing away to Tom. “You’re Mr Thomas? Thomas J Thomas?” Tom sighed, finally bored of the act.
“Yes, old sport. I suppose the game is up. And what does The Times want to know? Why I’ve escaped dreary old London with this venomous harridan?”
The waiter looked at him, bemused. “Oh, no sir. I think that much is obvious.”
Lilian smirked, folding her hands with no small amount of vanity.
“Although I do have one question, sir?”
“How do you feel about your wife absconding with the Earl of Wessex to San Francisco?”